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Hidalgo-County-SealRepresentatives of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA) were in Hidalgo County Commissioners Court again on Tuesday, July 9, to obtain approval of an agreement that will allow the RMA to levy bonds for the planned development of the Hidalgo County Loop. The agreement approved by county commissioners Tuesday, pledges the county’s $10 vehicle registration fee to be used to retire the RMA bonds.

HCRMA Executive Director Pilar Rodriguez later explained that the RMA plans to issue $60 million in bonds. The debt would be issued over a 30-year payback period. Commissioners were told, based on the 2013 Capital Improvement Plan figures, from $90 to $100 million of debt could be issued over the next few years. While the details of the bond issuance are not finalized, Rodriguez hopes to fund the bonds by the fourth quarter of this year.

The money would first be used to retire a $12 million debt from a line of credit with First National Bank. The bond proceeds will primarily be used for project development costs and construction of SH 365, which will connect the Anzalduas Bridge with the Pharr Bridge. Bond monies will also be allocated for the International Bridge Trade Corridor (IBTC) and a reserve fund for the RMA.

SH 365 Phase I will run from FM 396 to US 281, a distance of about 13 miles. SH 365 Phase II will go 2.65 miles from FM 1016 to FM 396. The IBTC will run 13.1 miles from FM 3072 to US 83 and FM 493 to US 83. This segment connects the Pharr Bridge to the Donna Bridge and to Expressway 83.

The total cost of SH 365 is expected to be $242 million, according to Rodriguez. This includes development costs such as design, environmental clearance, and right-of-way acquisition. The actual construction cost is estimated at $130 million.

Rodriguez said the environmental clearance for Phase I of SH 365 is anticipated in April 2014. After that, the RMA will begin acquisition of right-of-way for the project at an anticipated cost of $33 million. The project timeline calls for putting the project out for bids in December 2015 and starting construction by April 2016. The project is expected to take 30 months for completion once construction begins.

Commissioner Joe Flores once again asked about purchasing the land south of Expressway 83 west of Conway for the proposed section of the loop that will eventually connect to Expressway 83 in the west. At the June 24 Commissioner’s Court meeting he said now is the time to purchase the right-of-way needed before the land is developed and costs rise.

He was told that the other projects are already underway and that if they stopped and reworked the project to include that portion of the loop, they might lose funding. RMA representatives also said expanding the scope of the project would likely cause significant delays in obtaining environmental approvals required before the project can proceed. However, once these projects are approved and funded, in about eight months the HCRMA could come back and look again at starting planning and purchasing of land for that portion of the loop.

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